April 28, 2014

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McAnaney: Epic Weekend Sets Up Tournament Season

by Eamon McAnaney | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McAnaney Archive

Notre Dame prevailed in a pair of thrillers, helping set the foundation for an exciting tournament season to come by hoisting the ACC trophy that very few expected them to. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Wow. Simply wow, what a weekend of lacrosse we were treated to at the ACC tournament.

Sure, the word epic has been beaten into the ground by yours truly, but just when you think you might be blowing something out of proportion, the action on the field lives up to the hype and then some. It will be interesting to see if the six ACC teams are battle-tested or worn out for the postseason, because I can only imagine how sick and tired Loyola, Denver and the Ivy League are of hearing about the ACC being the SEC of lacrosse.

With one week left to play, I think there is only one spot left to play for in the field of 18. Hopkins should be safe, and both Penn and Cornell are in the field, so if Denver wins the Big East I think that final spot comes down to the winners of the Harvard/Yale game on Friday or Drexel if the Dragons can beat Towson but lose the CAA title game. That won't go over well in Bethlehem since Lehigh has a win over a Villanova team that beat Drexel, but the Dragons victory over Albany can pick up more juice this weekend if the Great Danes win the America East.

Looking Back

Notre Dame 6, Maryland 5/Notre Dame 15, Syracuse 14: What a turn of events for the Irish at the ACC tournament. They arrived at PPL Park teetering on the edge and appeared dead in the water at around 9:30 on Friday night, but somehow by about 3:15 Sunday afternoon, Notre Dame was the ACC Champ and its ticket to the dance was punched.

Everyone in the stadium felt both games were headed to bonus lacrosse, but the Domers pulled off a transition goal in the final seconds Friday and then Connor Kelly stoned Kevin Rice at the buzzer on Sunday. With a weekend filled of tremendous individual performances, it was awfully hard to pick an all-tournament team, but my colleagues in the media whiffed by not putting ND's two-way middie Jack Near on it. Sometimes you need to look outside the box score to know who the impact plays are.

Syracuse 16 Duke 15: If this one didn't convert viewers into lacrosse fans, then the sport has no chance. Yes, taking the air out of the ball is not in the Blue Devils' DNA, but the reigning champs would like to have that final minute of play back and play it more secure with the ball. The loss also opens the door for Loyola to grab the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

It's not a question of respect, because I have been voting Loyola number one since March - and I am well aware the Greyhounds smoked Duke - but when you throw wins over Denver and Penn on top of all the work the Blue Devils did in the ACC, I still think the numbers say Duke gets the top spot.

Penn State 8 Hofstra 7: You have to tip your cap to the Nittany Lions for not pouting and mailing in the rest of the season after losing three straight at the end of March. Reeling off three straight to end the year won't be enough to get Penn State in through the back door, but the win might have taken Hofstra's second line out of the water as an at-large team and made the CAA a one-bid league. We can go on and on about whether or not the Nittany Lions should be in the CAA tournament, but I am guessing it's going to be deep into the summer before Jeff Tambroni stops replaying the OT loss to Loyola in February in his mind.

Harvard 11, Yale 10: Congrats to Coach Chris Wojcik and the Crimson for capping off an Ivy season with wins over Cornell, Princeton and now Yale for the program's first league title since 1990. Devin Dwyer dished out six assists and youth coaches across the country should make sure all of their attackmen have an ESPN3 username and password to see this throwback quarterback in action Friday night at 8 p.m. in the rematch against Yale. The Crimson had some early season losses out of conference that put them behind the ball but, I think it will be awfully hard to keep Harvard out of the tournament if it can make it two in a row over Yale and then pick up another game against a Top 10 opponent in the conference final.

Top 20

Loyola
Duke
Denver
Syracuse
Notre Dame
Virginia
Johns Hopkins
Maryland
Penn
UNC
Cornell
Hofstra
Fairfield
Harvard
Drexel
Yale
Albany
Lehigh
Penn State
Army


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